Fire blazed across the deck as Citrios leapt up over the railing, blasting a strand of rigging that arced down towards him. A moment later, Lodarisâ€™s mighty leap carried him over the side of the ship, and his swords swept down on Dukantha.
â€œSo, youâ€™ve arrived at last.â€ Dukanthaâ€™s smile was cruel. â€œTwo masters of the Fire Dragon style, I see. Did no one warn you that water extinguishes fire?â€
â€œA hot enough fire boils water away.â€ With that simple reply, Citrios stabbed at Dukanthaâ€™s back, as Lodaris spun to strike him from the front. Their two animas merged, and the Infernal let himself drop to the ground, sliding under both blows and rolling to his feet, spinning his sword to strike. Flame pulled the blow aside even as Lodaris stepped easily backwards, and the battle was joined in earnest.
Nearby, another twisted rope turned to track the battle, and started to dive forwards. A moment later, it fell to the deck as Niaâ€™s chakram sliced cleanly through it. The Solar dropped to the deck, where Nganto was crouching, holding the corpse of a blood ape. â€œAre you alright?â€
Ngantoâ€™s expression was wry. â€œNo. I am just putting off my death by draining what little Essence these creatures have left in them.â€ She sighed, standing. â€œI can only hope that a moment comes where I may prove useful before I fall.â€
â€œBut you can healâ€¦â€ Nia trailed off at her companionâ€™s grim expression.
â€œChild, half of my head is missing. I have no lungs left. Essence is the only thing keeping my body moving, and it will run out soon.â€ Nganto turned her attention back to the fight. Steam billowed over the deck as Dukanthaâ€™s anima merged with those of his enemies. â€œBut without Essence, I cannot fight him effectively. I will only have one moment to strike. It will have to be perfect.â€
Nia nodded after a moment. â€œIâ€™m sorry I got you into this.â€
â€œIâ€™m not.â€ Nganto turned her attention back to Nia, a smile crossing the silver light of her lower face. â€œThis was a cause worth dying for.â€ She turned her attention back to Dukantha as Citrios landed a blow that caused the Infernal to stagger backwards. â€œIf we can destroy him.â€
â€œWe can.â€ Niaâ€™s face grew intent. â€œHe heals insanely quickly, but we had a plan for that. In case we had to fight you again. The Consuming Might of the Fire Dragon and their Flame-Flicker Stances make sure he canâ€™t hit them, and they use Searing Fists to wear him down. It sets his nerves on fire, keeps him from reacting properly.â€
Nganto nodded. â€œBrilliant. Once he is slow enough for every blow to landâ€¦â€
â€œWe follow up together. All at once.â€ Nia nodded. â€œI just have to stay back until we reach that part, or heâ€™ll kill me with one hit.â€ She sighed. â€œItâ€™s slow, but effective.â€
Nganto knelt and grabbed a pair of blood apes, letting Essence flow from them into her. â€œHopefully not too slow. I would like to seeâ€¦â€ She broke off abruptly.
In the centre of the ship, Citrios was dropping, sweeping with both his blades at Dukanthaâ€™s feet, while Lodaris stabbed forwards at his chest and neck. The Infernal danced upwards, light on his feet despite his armor, using the blades as stepping-stones as he pushed off, his anima gathering around him as he vaulted into the air. â€œMother! These vermin seek to stop us! They want to end the cycle, destroy the world we seek to build!â€ For a moment, he hung in the air, as the skies darkened and the sea began to boil. â€œShow them that they cannot!â€
â€œNoâ€¦â€ As Nganto breathed the word, the seas went mad. Dark green tendrils leapt upwards, radiating outwards from the ship. The battle on the docks abruptly collapsed as the tendrils lashed out, heedless of friend or foe. The Essence Cannon was shattered by a single blow. Another burned the flesh from the skin of Lintha and zombies alike, and others struck at the harbour mouth, shattering boats, piers, attackers and defenders with reckless abandon. The foul smell of acid filled the air, and Niaâ€™s eyes widened.
â€œKimbery!â€ It was impossible. Flatly impossible. But although this was only a shadow of what she had seen through the gate, it was unmistakable. Dukantha was summoning the Yozi.
â€œDamn it!â€ Nganto turned to Nia. â€œWeâ€™re out of time! I didnâ€™t think he could really do that, but nowâ€¦ we have to destroy him quickly, or heâ€™ll pull us all back to Malfeas. And then weâ€™ll all die!â€ She looked desperately around the deck. â€œDid you have a faster plan to kill him?â€
â€œWe didâ€¦â€ Nia trailed off. â€œBut weâ€™d need to be sure of hitting him. Weâ€™re nowhere near ready forâ€¦â€
â€œNow you are.â€ Nganto paused a moment to smile. â€œMake this world better, Nia Strongheart. I know that you can.â€ And with that, she leapt forwards, towards the fire and acid spraying across the deck.
Dukantha landed lightly, his grin fierce. â€œI am impressed, vermin. I did not think I would need to do this. But now it ends!â€ He raised his daiklave â€“ and caught the image of the Lunar barreling towards him in its reflection. Spinning, his expression turning grim, he raised the daiklave as Nganto unleashed a storm of blows, silver Essence pouring out of her body and through her limbs. As it passed, it left ravaged muscles and shattered bones, but each blow slammed against Dukanthaâ€™s blade like a hammer. Each blow he blocked, but each pulled him further off-balance. Every time, he felt his reactions slowing as the power of her Charms washed over him.
And then Nganto fell to the deck, dead, and Dukantha let himself grin a savage grin. The enemyâ€™s attack was done, and he was untouched.
And then Lodaris dropped his swords and raised his fists, fire bubbling like water around him. â€œYour sacrifice will not be forgotten, Mnalif Nganto.â€ The fists pounded forwards, and Dukantha turned to meet them â€“ but something was wrong. He was still slow, still held by the magics that Nganto had given her life to lay. Horror replaced his smugness as he realized that he could not respond in time.
As each blow hammered home, Dukantha prepared to protect himself. But that was when the second disaster struck. As each of Lodarisâ€™s attacks landed, they boiled away the blood where they struck. The power that Dukantha relied on transformed into weakness within him, and he staggered back, feeling his body failing beneath him. â€œDrowning in Bloodâ€¦ very impressive. Butâ€¦â€ But it was not enough. He raised his arms to complete the invocation, and to return to Malfeas with Kimbery and all those who dared oppose her.
And Nia struck.
A single chakram flew into the air. In mid-flight, it transformed, multiplied, doubled and redoubled again and again until a golden wind filled the sky between her and Dukantha. Slowed, weakened, not even his Defense Against Anathema was sufficient to block her strike. And as each chakram struck home, it dissolved into wind, and it drew the breath from his body. His lips moved, but no sound came out. He fell backwards, and his legs buckled.
And the last thing that he saw as he struggled to rise was Lodaris stepping forwards, fire and water shrouding his hands again, as he struck the final blows.
The seas calmed. The skies cleared. Kimberyâ€™s Dawn screamed in pain and sorrow as she was drawn back into Malfeas with her grandmother, leaving Dukanthaâ€™s corpse to fall unheeded into the sea.
Lodaris stood on the waves, his Charms holding him steady. Nia stood in the sky, reaching to grab Citrios before he struck the water. Around them, the shattered remnants of the Lintha fleet fled from the terror that had destroyed their lord and their armada.
It was done.